SeafarerHelp supports bullied deck cadet after knife incident on board

May 17, 2019
Bollard 3775299

ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp is a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers and their families, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Every year, members of the SeafarerHelp team visit a number of different ports in the UK where they have the opportunity to meet seafarers on their ships. During one port visit in 2018, one of SeafarerHelp’s officers was taken on board a container ship by the local port chaplain. As they were leaving the ship, the SeafarerHelp Officer and port chaplain were discreetly approached by another crew member. He asked if the SeafarerHelp Officer would talk to a Ukrainian deck cadet on board.

The SeafarerHelp Officer listened as the young deck cadet described how the bosun had threatened him with a knife. The deck cadet had been shaken by the incident and was now suffering from anxiety and having trouble sleeping. Before the incident, the bosun had been bullying the deck cadet – criticising and discrediting him, and always trying to find fault with his work rather than supporting and mentoring him. The deck cadet had reported the incident to the captain, who had in turn reported it to the deck cadet’s agency and the shipping company and was now awaiting a response.

The deck cadet also explained that the vessel had many problems, including long working hours, dangerous working conditions and insufficient food provisions. The ship was making three trips a week between two ports with an intensive workload and very short stays in port. The crew were exhausted and several had lost weight, and not all of their overtime was being recorded.

Despite reporting these problems to his union, the deck cadet felt he was not receiving the support he was hoping for. He agreed that SeafarerHelp could refer the case to the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) but asked that they did not name him. The SeafarerHelp Officer reassured the deck cadet that SeafarerHelp would assist and support him.

After referring the case, the SeafarerHelp team found out from one of the other crew members that the deck cadet had been sent home while the bosun had remained on board. When the team next spoke to the deck cadet, he was frustrated and worried – he had not been fully paid and the cost of his flight ticket home had been taken out of his wages.

The SeafarerHelp team alerted the ITF Seafarer Support team in London. The ITF visited the vessel and organised for the deck cadet to be paid in full and remunerated for his flight ticket. The SeafarerHelp team provided emotional support to the deck cadet and referred him to ISWAN’s mental health resources and guidance on bullying and harassment. They also suggested that he reported the conditions on board to the Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme (CHIRP Maritime).

The deck cadet was glad to leave the vessel, although he was still concerned about finding further employment, despite being cleared of any responsibility for what happened on board. When the SeafarerHelp team last spoke to him, he was going out, seeing friends and no longer suffering from anxiety or sleeping problems.

If you are a seafarer with a concern on board, you can speak to a member of the SeafarerHelp team confidentially – all our contact details can be found at Make a note of our details or save them on your phone in case you ever need our help or support.

Support our work for seafarers' welfare by donating today


Stay up to date with ISWAN's monthly email newsletter

We are grateful to our main funders for their continued support: